Popular English singer-songwriter and producer James Blake performed his rendition of Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” this past Thursday night on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Due to the ongoing pandemic, what would be an in-person performance from Blake was a pseudo music video, and it boasted stunning visuals that perfectly complimented the tone of the song. James Blake sits behind a grand piano as the sole figure encapsulated in a small glass temple, with stretching flora surrounding him that basked in a shimmering shower of sunlight.
“Godspeed” first appeared on Frank Ocean’s second full-length studio album, Blonde, which was released in 2016. The song is the 16th and penultimate track on the record. The album itself was critically and commercially successful and is frequently hailed as one of, if not the best, album of 2016. It’s known and revered for its introspective lyrics and a minimalistic rhythmic approach. This was not the first time Blake has covered Oceans discography, like during a recent Instagram livestream.
Blake’s version of “Godspeed” is more of an agreeable composition in comparison to Ocean’s. He performed it as if it was his own intellectual work, and in a way, this composition was, as it derives just enough of the original to be an homage, but boils certain aspects of it down in a new way. Although the vocal melody was similarly gorgeous, the original studio album version included an array of instrumentation, whereas now only the grand piano drives what was before sporadic stints of organ chords, synthesizers hums, marimba beats, and echoed audio panning. Blake’s version does not forfeit any of the emotional weight, and in a way draws more attention to the lyrics and stunningly sweet vocal melody.
James Blake, The London born multi-instrumentalist, just released a brand-new EP titled, Before last month, A]an homage to his London dancefloor roots. Check out our review of it here. Frank Ocean had released the single ‘DHL’ in 2019. This past August, his 18-year-old brother died in a car crash.
photo credit: Boston Lynn Schulz